MCMH a Step Closer to Real-time Electronic Records

ELLSWORTH — Maine Coast Memorial Hospital is a step closer to its goal of having real-time electronic medical records for all patients.

MCMH is the first area hospital to have physicians and nursing staff enter emergency room patient orders directly into a confidential computer database. Emergency Room physicians went online with the system Feb. 10. Nurses have been using the system since September.

Cliff Vaux, senior clinical analyst at the hospital, spearheaded the transition to electronic records. The switch from paper to an electronic database is a critical change in the way the hospital runs, he said. He relates it to when surgeons first learned they needed to wash their hands in the 1800s.

“This is the same thing, the same level of change,” Vaux said.

Emergency room staffers now have access to the latest information on a patient at their fingertips.

The system includes a public tracker screen, which provides vital details on a patient’s status, location, necessary care, nurse, physician, medications, allergies, time in the department and admission. The database is updated every 15 seconds as staff members enter new information.

 “It’s safety for the patients,” Emergency Department Nurse Manager Mary-Lou Carey said. “There are fewer medical errors because we can’t read handwriting. It’s not third party or second party.”

Dr. Ken Christian, medical director of the Emergency Department, helped with the transition to the new technology.

The system will be used in the new F. Eugene Dixon, Jr. Emergency Center scheduled to be completed in January 2010.

Hospital officials are now seeking $250,000 in grants to purchase software necessary to put all inpatient records into the database.